ST. PAUL, Minn. – After a clearing attempt by Minnesota hit a stray stick, Calgary captain Jarome Iginla jumped on the loose puck and wound up for a slap shot.
Iginla tripped, and his stick hit the ice instead of the puck as he fell forward above the slot. But it was lined up just right to make enough contact and send an accidental pass over to Curtis Glencross for the go-ahead goal. That’s the kind of sequence that happens when a team is playing well.
Iginla scored and had that important-yet-unorthodox assist, and the Flames hung on to beat the Wild 4-3 on Sunday for their third straight victory.
“I laughed at him when he came into the pile. I said, ‘Nice pass.’ He’s like, ‘Well, yeah. Didn’t really plan it like that, but it worked out,'” said Glencross, who has a goal in seven straight games, the longest such streak in the NHL this season.
The Flames, who moved into a tie for eighth place with the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference with 76 points, are 4-1-1 in six games this month. Iginla has six goals and five assists in that span. The last one came after Erik Christensen woke the Wild up with two goals in a 2:20 span in the third period to tie it. Even if it was a botched shot to begin with, it became a perfect pass.
“Yeah, it was nice wasn’t it? I was about to shoot, and at the last second I saw him and I fanned on it,” Iginla said, breaking into a chuckle.
The Wild weren’t laughing. They’re 1-5-1 in their last seven games, with only two wins in regulation in their last 18 contests.
“Things just fell apart quickly, and we’ve got to figure out a way to stop that,” said goalie Matt Hackett.
Sven Baertschi scored his first career goal to put the Flames up 2-0 just 1:43 into the final frame. Olli Jokinen gave the Flames another goal with 5:18 remaining, insurance for Devin Setoguchi’s flip-in of a loose puck he kept out of Miikka Kiprusoff’s reach with 1:04 left.
The Flames missed the post-season each of the last two years and haven’t won a playoff series since their run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004, but they’re in the conversation entering the final stretch of the regular season.
“It’s huge for us. We’ve been battling, and we’ve been kind of nipping at the heels here for a while. We’re playing well right at the right time,” Glencross said.
The shots were 17-6 at one point in the second period in favour of the Flames, but the depleted Wild outshot them 21-8 the rest of the way. Christensen’s first goal bounced off Anton Babchuk’s stick.
“I miss scoring. … But it still doesn’t take away the feeling of the way the game ended up,” Christensen said.
The next one prompted Flames coach Brent Sutter to call timeout.
“I got blood pressure pills. Believe me. We had some shifts there where we had guys standing around and let them get some momentum on us. But you know what? We found a way to be resilient there too,” Sutter said.
In 33 games at Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center, Iginla has scored 17 times. With 35 all-time goals against the Wild, he’s by far the leading opponent scorer over the franchise’s 11 seasons. Of the 18 skaters in their lineup this game, the Wild had only six players who’ve scored that many times in their entire career, let alone against one team.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), Mikko Koivu (shoulder) and Cal Clutterbuck (illness) sat next to each other in suits in the press box, a fitting image for this once-promising season gone wrong. Coach Mike Yeo was upset by a lack of urgency and effort by a handful of players he didn’t name, and he threatened to make them healthy scratches in the future.
“We’re going to be playing guys that want to play hard,” Yeo said.
Despite their resurgence in the second part of this game, the Wild couldn’t make up for their mistakes down the stretch.
“We’re just not a team that can be in that situation right now. It’s unfortunate that we have those little lapses,” Christensen said.
NOTES: Glencross set a career high with his 25th goal. … Acquired in a Feb. 2 trade with the New York Rangers, Christensen scored for the first time in 16 games with the Wild. His last goal was Nov. 5.